Suckers and Cemeteries

Halloweens of Yore

By Steve Carr

Halloween, a generation ago—okay, two generations ago—was more about a license for mischief than it was plastic masks and bite-sized candy bars. Somehow (and everyone understood this), pranks that would be criminal the rest of the year were tolerated by adults on Halloween.

On an unseasonably warm fall Saturday afternoon in 1974, my gang of mostly Sunday- school-trained, letterman-jacket-wearing buddies and I broke ranks from the established teenager cruise loop. (Paxman’s Drive-In was our very own Happy Days hangout.) We had acquired a fully loaded, pressurized fire extinguisher. I didn’t ask from whence it came. Our targets were lonely drinkers bellied up to the local bars. One of us held the bar door open and another let loose the charged water. Although the victims weren’t laughing, we thought our unconsidered fun was clever.

We exhausted the day bare-handing suckers from the river and relocating them across the street to the motel swimming pool. After populating the pool with ugly fish, we wanted more adventure. We were on a roll. The Exorcist had been playing at the Paramount Theater, inspiring us to hatch a plan that involved the cemetery, black-robed and hooded bad guys, and gullible girls. Recruiting my brother and his friends to be bad guys was easy. Like us, they were always itching for action. However, it was late, and we needed victims.

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